No matter how unpleasant joining the army sounds (early mornings, getting shouted at, hard beds- no thanks), there is always a certain aspect to it that appeals. In this reviewer's head, if he joined the army, he would obviously be selected for some sort of Special Forces unit within a matter of weeks, due to his unnatural skills with the blade/gun/explosives or all of the above. Suddenly whisked away to some remote country in the middle of a brutal conflict, he would be a critical part of the war effort, probably foiling a nuclear explosion or the like with just seconds to spare. Though, in reality 'the guy that peels the spuds' is a far more likely role. Fortunately, we have gaming to whisk us away to these combat hotspots without all the nasty bits. However, as has been proven many times before, combining a realistic experience with something enjoyable can be difficult. Fortunately, the experienced team at Red Storm has yet to let us down.
In the crowded shoot em-up genre, it's becoming harder and harder to make a name for yourself. It's something that Ubisoft have handled exceptionally well by carving its own neat little sub-genre, in the form of 'realistic' games and its canny use of the Tom Clancy name. Ghost Recon 2 continues this run, and fortunately, is more than up to the excellent standards of its Tom Clancy stable mates. Once again, you'll find yourself dropped into the middle of a war zone, in situations that can only be solved by your elite, four-man team: This time, it's North Korea, where a dangerous General is doing his best to start a war. It's pretty standard stuff and is really just an excuse to throw you into varying situations and crises, but that is fine with us.
It's clear from the outset that Red Storm has taken on board any criticisms that have been leveled at the previous game. Upon starting, you only have the choice of how your character is equipped, rather than outfitting the entire team; a compromise perhaps, but a satisfactory one, allowing you to get into the action much faster. You'll be doing most of the killing anyway, so why worry about who has the sniper rifle and who has the machine gun? Overall, the game is much more accessible than its predecessor, and much more fun.
The real innovations and changes start to shine through when you actually get stuck into your first mission. It looks fantastic. The leap between this and the original Ghost Recon are huge, with environments crafted to make you truly feel like you're in the middle of a war zone. Yes, it's maybe a bit of a Hollywood war zone, but lets face it, that's what we're all used to. Besides, running around an airfield with mortars dropping around you is really fun. The other major change is the switch to a standard 3rd person view, which really changes how you play the game, in terms of cover and tactics. Though it is optional, and can be switched to a first person mode, if needed.
The major way that Ghost Recon 2 differs from other third-person shooters is the need to think in a tactical fashion. It's often worth taking your time and using all the elements in your arsenal in order to complete your objectives. Indeed, when one bullet can either kill yourself or a teammate, it's vital that every step is chosen carefully. If one criticism could be leveled at the original game it's that most missions were very similar. In the sequel the challenges come thick and fast an often make you throw old tactics completely out the window. A prime example is the defense of a medical camp. In this, you need to fill the breach as an attack rages around a camp you've landed in. It involves much running around to various attack points; all the self-preservation skills you've grown accustomed to have to be thrown out the window. It's this element, keeping you on your toes through clever mission design and level structure, where the game truly excels.
In and of itself, the single player campaign is a great game. Fortunately, it doesn't stop there. The amount of extra modes and multiplayer features is superb. For a start, the LIVE features allow you to play a wide variety of game types, including an online co-operative campaign mode. There is the 'Lone Wolf' mode, allowing you to complete the campaign with only one soldier and a load of hi-tech kit. The co-operative split screen option is another great addition, making allowances for those without an Internet connection. This truly is a game that will keep you entertained long after you're finished with the main campaign. Red Storm really know how to treat their fans.
It's difficult to find anything to dislike about this game, as it seems that through different games and iterations of the series, Red Storm have truly polished this until it shines. However, it won't be the type of game that everyone enjoys and despite the attempts to simplify things and appeal to a wider audience, some people will still find the slow pace hard to get into after being groomed on the Halos and Dooms of the world. Which is a shame, as it's an extremely accomplished game and a true slice of entertainment.
This is a game that could, and should, convert people to 'realistic' shoot-em ups, but it doesn't have enough on the surface to have that kind of appeal. Dig a little deeper and you'll find a game that is worth putting some time into and will almost certainly be enjoyable from beginning to end. It's the first hurdle that's the problem, so if you haven't poked the first tentative toe into this genre, now is the time to start. For those of you who enjoy a challenge and a bit more depth in your action games, Ghost Recon 2 is the game to play.